Navigating The Complexities Of Racism

Navigating Complexity

I love to problem solve. Well, let me clarify. I love to problem solve certain issues, not necessarily math or science. My mind just doesn't function that way. It never has and it probably never will. I can remember on multiple occasions where I was faced with certain tests or equations that I would look at the numbers and letters put together (who thought of that, anyway) and just want to close my book and leave. It didn't matter how much I studied or memorized. I could look at one part and think "oh, I know the answer," but then another part comes up and paralyzes me. I would want to quit.

I believe that it is the same for the issue of racism. We can look at it and become overwhelmed by it. It looks too complex to solve.

I am not saying racism is too complex to understand and know about. All we need to do is look back at the history of our country. If I can be more focal, look at the first-century church. Much of the New Testament touches on ethnic issues (Galatians 2:11-14, Romans 1-3, Ephesians 2). Racism as a sin will permeate throughout our lives until Jesus returns. We are called as believers to confront and renounce that sin until that day. That is simple.

Yet the complexity comes into play when we see it interwoven into our lives and systems of today. When it is masked and shadowed by propaganda, twisted narratives, and misinterpreted thoughts. When we debate methodology and approach. When we don't agree on what racism is. When we compare the church to the world. It is complex when we wrestle with whether our personal convictions are lined up with the Word of God. When what we see clashes with our friends and families views. All of this and so much more build the complex structure of the racial conversation and causes people to want to quit. I know because I've been there (another post for a different day).

So how do we deal with the complexities and nuances? How do we navigate it? We first need to trust in God. For some, this answer seems incomplete. They may see it as "too simple." They may be leaning into this blog right now going "yes, and what else?" Others will see this answer as dodging the issue. But I would ask that you hear me out.

First, trust in the Lord is never without follow up action.

When Jesus called his disciples, their act of trust was displayed in their leaving everything they had to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-34; Luke 5:1-11). The same goes for us in today's racial climate. If we are to deal with the sin of racism, the Lord must be our entrusted hope. That will, in turn, give us the avenues in which we should fight the sin and see change happen in people's lives. This means when we say we "trust the Lord" we aren't sitting on our hands but rather actively living that trust out through the great commission and through openness.

Second, we cannot act within the will of God without first trusting in Him.

The discussion on racism is riddled with flawed arguments on whether or not someone should engage in racial issues. based on the above statement, that should not even be a question. Yet we cannot truly act without the Lord. The temptation to fight racism without the Lord is a strong one. We Christians are an active people. We want to fight for what is right. Sometimes, to our detriment, we act in such a way that it reflects the world more than our Lord. We can be so quick to jump to action, we rarely stop to ask whether this movement, this organization, is aligned with the Lord. Trust in the Lord means sometimes we say "no" to what everyone else is seemingly saying "yes" to doing.

Now I say the following as a caution: "Trust in the Lord" cannot and should not ever be used as a tool or a phrase to support passivity on the issue of racism. If a forty-year-old man sitting on his parent's couch, jobless and not seeking one, says over and over again that he is trusting in God to bring him one, we would be hard-pressed to call that laziness rather than trust. The same example can be applied to the racial issue. Trust is the avenue in which we can act on fighting sin, not a reason not to engage.

But what does active trust in the Lord look like in the racial context? It looks like not fearing what either side thinks of you (Prov. 29:25). Paul at one point in his ministry was feared by the early church leaders, who wanted nothing to do with him (Acts 9:25). When that was complete, he was then hated by the Jewish leaders. But through it all, Paul remained faithful to the call of God. He was never a man to be swayed by the threats nor was he concerned with appeasing men. His heart was wholly trusting in God.

Second, trusting in God means acknowledging Him in all your ways (Prov. 3:5-6). Right now, some may be reading this wondering what they should do about the race issue. What has the Lord given you to do in your life? Too many have measured their capabilities to those on bigger platforms or that have a more vocal presence in the conversation. They think that since they don't have a specific outlet (say, a podcast) they don't have anything to offer. Not true. The Lord has His hand in your life in a specific way. First Corinthians tells us God "arranges" the body of Christ. He gives us specific gifts and talents. He puts us in particular times in history. He equips through His word so we can live to do good works. (2 Tim. 3:16-17) If fighting racism is one of your passions, He has given you what you need to do so. You just have to ask Him what way.

Third, trusting God in the racial context is trusting what He has given in the Word is more than enough.

This is not me saying reading books and articles about racism and injustice is wrong. They are great resources. But the best answer we have to the racial conversation is the Word itself.

Rest assure family, trust is not a switch that can be flipped. It is a practice, an exercise, a measure of spiritual maturity. But it is from this perch that we can see in what we called to do, and do so in confidence because of who leads the charge. It's just that simple.

RacismMatt Bryant